Define the Future State of Training
With the present state defined, tell management how you are going to change it. Share your vision, the model of your plan at a high level, so they can visualize what you plan to do. Make the connection between your strategic plan and the corporate vision early on and with emphasis. This connection is the foundation of a successful plan.
This portion of your business case needs to be more than a pitch for a new budget or an e-learning investment. Sell your audience on the transformation that is, in reality, the basis for your initiative. You are offering executives an opportunity to become a learning organization that will make their people smarter , more efficient, and more aggressive pursuers of skills and knowledge and thus ultimately make the company more profitable. You are giving them the chance to become what is the single most important determinant of success in today's workplace ”a company whose knowledge and skills improve fast enough to keep up with a rapidly evolving economy. In exchange, you are asking them to support a vast cultural-change initiative that will pull people out of their comfort zones and require them to take on greater responsibilities in their daily work lives. That promise of support is critical now, because when the change occurs and people fight it, you need to know that management will back you up. Describe your objectives, the implementation process, the technology, and the change that will be required to convert the company into a learning organization. Don't just cover what you want to buy; discuss how the overall strategic plan will directly affect the business. Show them, through statistics and graphics, what effect your proposal will have on productivity, travel costs, and improved job performance.
Weave into your case anecdotes and statistics that give life to your results. For example, a sales course offered in a classroom may require salespeople to spend three days offsite, whereas a computer-based course can be taken on the plane as they travel from point to point, which means that the sales staff remains productive for those three days. Tie a dollar value to salespeople's productivity to show your audience a real-life example of the impact e-learning can have on business.
In our plan we began with a high-level definition of our objectives and yearly goals, and then we visually represented the future state of learning through the use of diagrams profiling our six core objectives. Every element of the strategic plan, from the learning councils to the virtual-classroom software, was represented in a chart or diagram, showing what we intended to do and the impact it would have on the business.
Each visual included an objective, along with how it would be achieved and how we planned to measure the results. For example: To make training available to all employees , our objective was to provide learning worldwide, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Our initiative would achieve this objective through the establishment of self-paced Web and CD-ROM courses and virtual-classroom technology. We planned to measure the success of this element of the initiative by tracking usage of the technology by employees, business units, and locations. This simple approach allowed us to share the plan and its impact easily without going into too much detail.
To elaborate on our objectives, we used flowchart diagrams of the new instructional-systems-design model surrounded by images representing the various alternative learning formats. At a high level we defined the hardware, software, and vendor support necessary to implement the model and how the associated investment would create a worldwide system of competency-based learning that was available on the fly in multiple formats to anyone anywhere . We mapped the learning system, the content-delivery model, and all of our proposed work processes, including when and where our team would implement each learning methodology based on measurable needs and projected results. We compared the existing curriculum-development system with our future model, highlighting the weaknesses of the narrowly focused classroom model and the strengths of the competency-based, flexible, future system.
To flesh out our high-level descriptions and projections, we included, at the end of this section, the details of our planned architecture, budget, infrastructure, hardware and software, licenses, vendors , and so on. We included a reduced version of our work-breakdown structure, a high-level implementation schedule, charts breaking down the cost and value of chosen vendors, present budget information, projected expenses for labor and materials, cost comparison charts between the present and future state and the projected savings, and the forty-plus cost formulas we used to calculate our savings. We also included abbreviated versions of the communication and marketing plan, outlining how we planned to let the employees know learning opportunities had changed, what they could do to take advantage of them, and what the benefits and incentives would be.
Any information you have about how you intend to implement your plan should be included in the hard copy of your business case, even though you won't necessarily go over it in your presentation. This is information some audiences will want to review and may have questions about, but it's not a critical component to your sales presentation. Including it shows that you've done your homework and verifies to your audience that this information exists. There are always super-analytical types in any organization who want to drill down to the most finite level of detail. Be prepared for them ”if you're not, they can derail your presentation.